Monday, March 03, 2008

Thoughts On SEED

Are the Port Of Bremerton Commissioners running for political cover, finally realizing that the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) project has lost favor with the majority of our overtaxed citizens, and that a serious revolt is brewing?

The Port's Executive Director, Ken Attebery recently "fired" SEED's consultant, former county commissioner Tim Botkin. Fired is actually the wrong word. What happened, was the Port terminated Botkin's contract to manage the project — a contract that reportedly paid him in the neighborhood of $12,000 a month. That contract was due to expire at the end of March.

So, what did we get for our money? As near as I can figure, we got a partially working Web site, some outdated printed materials, and some pie-in-the-sky promise of high-paying jobs in an emerging industry in some fuzzy, undefined, future time frame. But after two and half years and several million taxpayer dollars, Botkin failed to deliver on any of his promises. Not one single company has signed on the dotted line to locate at SEED.

For that kind of money, taxpayers had a right to expect a high level of performance from Botkin. He couldn't even put together a coherent grant application. Instead of spending a couple of thousand dollars on a professional grant writer, in one instance, he kept the money in his own pocket and did it himself. He scored 345 points out of a possible 1,000 — nearly at the very bottom of the list.

I have to believe it was Botkin's arrogance — once again — that was his undoing, just as it was when he was defeated as commissioner after only one term. As an incumbent, that election was his to lose, and in spite of a solid Democratic majority in this county, a Republican political neophyte didn't just beat him — she spanked him. On the day after that election, I asked a key Democratic Party insider why he thought that had happened. His unhesitating answer: "Tim's f***ing arrogance did him in."

What is probably the straw that broke the camel's back in this instance was an email Botkin sent to political supporters urging them to bring as much pressure to bear on the Port and other elected officials to keep the project fully funded (read: keep him fully employed). Feeding at the government trough a large part of his working life, Botkin obviously doesn't "get" that so blatantly politicizing something that is strictly a case of knowing that business demands results, is exactly why Botkin failed to bring SEED to fruition.

To illustrate that point, he attempted to misdirect criticism away from the poor job he did, by issuing self-serving statements, like, "...SEED was growing so fast and the Port doesn't have the system to support that." In another, he said, "My retrospective is I asked the Port for more than they can do." The bottom line is Botkin didn't produce results. End of story. If he'd have been working in the private sector, he more than likely would have been canned long before now.

Another illustration of Botkin politicizing SEED, was when he went to Olympia to testify against NASCAR and strong-arm legislators against supporting the legislation to make it possible. As the consultant for SEED, he had absolutely no business doing that. In fact, had NASCAR come here, it was ready to partner with SEED — reportedly to the tune of a couple million dollars for openers.

What Botkin received in political payback was Sen. Phil Rockefeller diverting over a million tax dollars earmarked for a project in Bremerton, to SEED. What is most interesting here is that SEED isn't even in Rockefeller's district — but Rockefeller opposed NASCAR. This happened after after it came to light NASCAR and Bremerton were discussing the possibility of it annexing the proposed site — taking the decision-making out of the county's hands and away from vitriolic opponent Commissioner Chris Endresen — Botkin's political partner before his defeat.

Again, it was Botkin politicizing SEED instead of understanding it is a business proposition.

So where does SEED go from here? Port Chair Kincer deserves to be commended for insisting on independent third-party reviews of SEED's business plan and funding mechanisms. She has also suggested the project partner with a research institution, and explore working with private industrial developers. This is Business 101 — which is what Botkin should have been doing from the very beginning.

A LOT of money has been invested in SEED — the taxpayers have in essence been the unwilling venture capitalists for this project. I also believe it is a sound concept that should go forward. However, if anything is abundantly clear, it is that Tim Botkin should have never been the person in charge. While he a passionate environmentalist, his blatant, "I know what's best for you," arrogance, has also made him a lightening rod for controversy. And like his political opposition to NASCAR, because of his inexperience in the business world, he has mismanaged what could be a golden opportunity, almost into oblivion — all at the taxpayer's expense.


  1. I grew up with Tim. He is the smartest guy I have ever met, other than Jim Thompson who is a department head at Cleveland Heart Clinic. What you call arrogance is simply the fact that he has more vision than most people. My hunch is that at the end of your life, you will not have as much to show for yourself as Tim.

  2. If you are the smartest person on the planet and yet cannot deliver what you were hired to deliver, does it matter that you are the smartest person on the planet?

    Albert Einstein was one of the smartest men on the planet, but he probably wouldn't have been the best choice to pitch in the 1914 World Series (won by the Boston Braves) or to perform surgery.

    Tim Botkin is a very smart man. However, he didn't have whatever it took to bring SEED together in a way that embodied public and private support. I'm hoping there is someone out there who can bring private and public partnership together to move SEED forward in a manner that is win-win for taxpayers and private industry. However, for whatever reasons, Tim Botkin wasn't getting the job done.

    Kathryn Simpson

  3. There is no doubt Tim Botkin is smart. At least smart enough to fool the democrats and keep a nice fat salary coming for doing almost nothing except collecting his money. Smart people are a dime a dozen. The seed project is worthless. The democrats just don't want to admit it and in addition, they love give away programs.